Mayor Sylvester Turner announced in early September that he had signed Executive Order (EO 1-71) COVID-19 Mitigation Safety Measures requiring City of Houston employees to test for the COVID-19 virus twice monthly, unless they are exempted. Approved exemptions include proof of a COVID-19 vaccination and approved requests for medical or religious reasons.
The announcement follows the recent deaths of two city employees from complications linked to the virus. The requirement becomes effective Oct. 8. Employees must report testing results to the HR Department by the 1st and 15th of each month.
Vaccinated COH employees, or those with medical or religious exceptions and elected or appointed officials of council, boards, and commissions are exempt. The Human Resources department will announce the process for exemptions.
"I cannot stand by and watch employees continue to get sick, and in some cases die, from a disease that we know how to manage. The virus is having an impact on our workforce and the City's ability to provide services directly to the public," Turner said. "Overall, the City continues to see hundreds of new COVID-19 patients being admitted to the hospitals in the Texas Medical Center each day.
“While there are breakthrough cases, full vaccination is the best defense against COVID-19 and its variants, like Delta,” Turner said. “The vaccine protects our first responders, our emergency care workers, and the hospital system as a whole."
The Houston Fire Department announced the death of active member Engineer Operator Tanner G. Reed, 39, who lost his battle with Coronavirus / Covid-19 on Sept. 3, 2021. Engineer Operator Reed is the fourth line of duty death due to Coronavirus / Covid-19 in the Houston Fire Department. Shortly after, a Houston Public Works Employee died after being hospitalized for COVID-19.
As of Sept. 7, a total of 342 COH employees have reported testing positive for the virus. Houston continues to have uncontrolled COVID-19 spread, much like the rest of the county. COVID-19 cases in Houston and Harris County have surged since mid-July, in large part due to the more contagious Delta variant. Houston's 14-day average positivity rate is now at 19.3%.
COH offers free vaccines and testing at several sites across Houston.
Testing, vaccination, and exemption information will remain confidential, and kept separate from general personnel files, and retained in accordance with the law. Employees who do not comply with the new requirements may face corrective action up to and including termination or indefinite suspension.